Best Fuel Injector Cleaners for 2020: Top 7 List, Reviews and Buyer’s Guide
Fuel additives come in different flavors and offer different benefits. The best fuel injector cleaners are often referred to as fuel system cleaners or fuel injector/system [cleaner] additives, although there are subtle differences.
Their primary function is, as their name suggests, keeping your vehicle’s fuel system clean and functioning optimally. But they usually do much more. Fuel injector cleaner additives do not have the same formulation, and unsurprisingly, some are more effective than others are.
However, because of the eccentricities of the fuel system cleaner market, it can be very difficult (if not impossible) to tell if you’re about to buy an additive that’d work or a snake oil solution without some help.
And that’s where this best fuel system cleaner additive guide comes in. We start with a comparison chart. Move on to a stretch of concise reviews of the top fuel injector cleaners available now. And wrap up with a comprehensive guide that tells you all you need to know about this additive—from why you need it to what you should look out for before buying one.
Top 7 Best Fuel Injector Cleaners to Buy in 2018
Best Fuel Injector Cleaner Reviews
#1 - Red Line (60103) Complete SI-1 Fuel System Cleaner - 15 Ounce | Best Overall Fuel System Cleaner
Much ado about PEA
No, not pea. But polyetheramine—a family of complex compounds with remarkable ability to remove carbon deposits. Although, several solvents and detergents possess this ability, PEA is the most effective. And the Red Line Complete SI-1 has the highest concentration of PEA amongst top-tier fuel system cleaners (at 30-50%).
Red Line didn’t leave it all to PEA tho’. In addition to PEA, the Complete SI-1 contains a host of other additives and solvents in varying concentrations (the formulation is secret of course), such as cylinder lube oil, which enhance its cleaning capability.
As a result, the SI-1 is not only able to clean the fuel injector, but other vital parts of the fuel system where carbon buildup occurs—the intake valves, carburetors, and combustion chambers. It also lubricates the upper cylinder.
A host of benefits
So, what it does may seem ordinary. It simply removes carbon deposit, gunk, dirt, and other residue to make your fuel injector function optimally. However, the benefits of a fuel system that is firing on all cylinders are immense. We are talking:
Just as important as its effectiveness and benefits is the fact that it is incredibly easy to use. You simply pour it in your vehicle’s fuel tank, and away it goes to do its thing, while you use your car as you normally would without any disruption. You could use the Red Line SI-1 continually—that is, adding a bit with every fill up—or instead use it after every 3,000 miles.
With the right dosing, the Red Line Complete SI-1 is a top performer, as you’d begin to feel its effect after your very first use in most cases. That said, the SI-1 is safe for most vehicles, and as long as you titrate correctly, you can also use it to clean the fuel system of motorcycles, scooters, and snowmobiles.
#2 - Chevron 65740 Techron Concentrate Plus Fuel System Cleaner - 20 oz. | Popular Alternative with Different Volumes
Old is Gold
Red Line may get most of the attention currently for its high PEA content, but PEA became a thing thanks to Chevron’s costly research. They patented and called their formula Techron, and the fuel system cleaner market was never the same after that.
Techron led the charge, and although it has lost some ground to Red Line and the competition, it is still very much a favorite. Of course, they had the option and opportunity to continue pushing the envelope on PEA concentration, but decided to halt the charge at 32% (Red Line is up to 50%). Instead, they focused on tinkering with the formulation to include other effective detergents like Stoddard solvent and solvent naphtha in sufficient quantities to give the Techron Concentrate Plus additional capabilities.
More than a fuel system cleaner
Thanks to its high PEA concentration, the Techron Concentrate Plus is able to offer the exact same benefits as the Red Line SI-1 (may not always be as quickly, but certainly). This implies that it effectively removes (cleans) deposits in the fuel injector, intake valves, carburetors, and combustion chamber.
By eliminating these deposits, the engine works more efficiently. And the benefits include:
Furthermore, thanks to its unique, proprietary formulation, the Techron improves cold start performance and offers fuel stability of up to one year.
The Chevron Techron is as easy to use as the Red Line SI-1, if not easier. This is because Chevron has a much simpler titration ratio of 1:1.
And like the SI-1, you could choose to use the Techron Concentrate Plus continually to limit buildup and wear or stick to intermittent use every 3000 miles or at your next oil change. Of course, the titration ratio would be lower if you choose to use it with every fill up.
Also, you can use the Techron Concentrate Plus with gasoline engines of vehicles, motorcycles, boats, lawn mowers, etc.
#3 - 3 Pack Bg 44k Bg44k Fuel System Cleaner Power Enhancer 11 Oz Cans | Dealers’ Favorite
A four-decade-old reputation
Aside the Chevron Techron, the BG 44K is the only other oldie on this list with the choice of automotive professionals over the years. One important reason for this is that BG regularly tweaks the formulation to infuse newer ingredients that are more efficient and to make it just as effective for newer engines as they are for old engines.
Consequently, while the BG 44K has historically being majorly a Stoddard solvent FSC (fuel system cleaner); it like the Chevron Techron now has a proprietary mix of Stoddard solvent, Naptha, and of course PEA.
It may not have the headline-grabbing percentage of PEA content as the Redline SI-1 but it is undeniably a top performer as it thoroughly cleans the intake valves, injectors, ports, and combustion chambers (like every top quality FSC on this list).
Being a premium fuel system cleaner, the BG 44K unsurprisingly offers the benefits that you’d expect to obtain from any other FSC worth its salt. The oft quoted ones are getting rid of stalling, power loss, hesitation, and engine surge; improving car mileage; and reducing wear.
However, worth noting in addition to these benefits is that the BG 44K contains no alcohol, and so is compatible with all fuel system materials, alcohol-blended fuels, and common fuel additives. It is also safe and doesn’t cause issues with the oxygen sensor or catalytic converter.
It should be said though that its benefits, especially with driving quality; is more noticeable in older cars that have racked up tens of thousands of miles.
The peculiar nature of the BB 44K formula makes it highly concentrated and potent. Its titration ratio is roughly 1:2.
As a result, the BG 44K is sparingly used—with most users using it only 2-3 times in a year. To get the most effect, you should use it prior to an oil change. It will dissolve the chemical deposits in the fuel system, some of which you’d notice in the bad oil during the oil change.
That said, like most FSCs on this list, the BG 44K is a gasoline only FSC. You can use it with other gasoline engines at the right titration ratio at the same frequency as you would with a gasoline car engine.
Always equal to the task
The BG 44K has been going strong for over four decades thanks to its adaptability to changing vehicle needs and fuel composition. Today it is just as strong as ever and is one of the most potent FSCs relying as much on the traditional ingredients—Stoddard and Naptha—as on the new kid on the block—PEA.
This gives it a thoroughness that other fuel system cleaners can only dream of, explains why it is a long-running dealers’ favorite, and why mechanics and users swear by it.
#4 - Royal Purple Max-Clean Fuel System Cleaner and Stabilizer 11722 | Rising Star
Rising to the challenge
Chevron and BG may have held on to the crown for decades, but there certainly are challengers. Red Line for example unarguably is currently in their league, and its high PEA content makes it a more appealing choice for a growing number of users.
Royal Purple Max-Clean isn’t so far behind this elite group. It may not have the highest PEA content or boast of the heritage of BG 44K. But it does come to the ring fists clenched and arms swinging. It is one of the new breed of fuel system cleaners with the ability to function effectively in either gasoline, diesel, or hybrid gas/diesel blends.
More importantly, its versatility does not preclude it from scoring all the good stuff known to have significant cleaning properties, mainly PEA, Stoddard solvent, and naphtha. Sure, it has other distillates, additives, and detergents; but these top-performing cleaning agents accord it the ability to boast of roughly the same capabilities as the Red-Line, Chevron, or BG without the restriction to gasoline engines only.
The Max-Clean goes the whole nine yards with its proprietary formula. It is EPA/CARB complaint. It cleans the injectors, carburetors, intake valves, and combustion chambers.
It’d work in both new or old engines; naturally aspirated, turbocharged, or supercharged; and in both 4-cycle and 2-cycle engines safely without harming specialized emissions equipment. It’d cut down on deposit buildup and tailpipe emissions. It’d even stabilize fuel for up to one year during off-season and storage.
Going in-depth, its more direct benefits include:
The 1:1 titration ratio of the Royal Purple Max-Clean may not be peculiar to it, with the Techron sharing the same ratio. However, Royal Purple recommends using a 20 oz. can for 10,000 miles; which certainly gives it bragging rights in terms of cost-effectiveness.
That said, the titration ratio for 2-cycle engines is 1:2—1 oz. of Max Clean per 2 gallons of fuel.
Like most other premium fuel system cleaners, the Max Clean is easy to use (as you only have to pour into a nearly empty tank and then refuel), and you can use it in non-road engines.
#5 - Lucas LUC10013 10013 Fuel Treatment - 1 Gallon | Best Gas/Diesel Dual-Purpose Fuel Injector Cleaner for Bulk Use
A different approach
It’s actually two different approaches. But one towers over the other and sets it truly apart from most other fuel system cleaners on this list. It is that the Lucas LUC10013 is as much a fuel conditioner as it is a fuel injector cleaner.
Now make no mistake, the Lucas Fuel Treatment sure has a cleaning effect on your fuel injector and combustion chamber. But it doesn’t use PEA or solvents to remove or dislodge carbon deposits like most other fuel system cleaners.
Rather, it lubricates the pumps and injectors causing your fuel system to fire more smoothly. And complements this with the use of select additives that cause the fuel to burn more thoroughly. This way the Lucas Fuel Treatment mimics the function of lead in gasoline without causing any harm to the engine or producing harmful emissions.
Put simply, while the primary action of the Lucas Fuel Treatment 10013 is to lubricate and protect your fuel system as well as burn excess exhaust emissions, the second effect of these actions is that it cleans your fuel injector, carburetor, and combustion chamber.
It conditions, it lubricates, it protects, and it cleans. But what tangible benefits do these actions (or functions) provide?
The second approach alluded to above is Lucas offering its Fuel Treatment product in a humongous 1 gallon (equivalent to 128 ounces) bottle. Furthermore, the titration ratio is approximately 1:3 to 1:5—3 ounces per 10 gallons of fuel.
As a result, you’d be able to treat up to 400 gallons of fuel with one bottle.
That’s not the only interesting quality of the LUC10013. You can use it in both gasoline and diesel engines. And like the other fuel system cleaners, you add it to the fuel tank and it is effective in non-road gasoline and diesel engines as well, such as lawn mowers or marine diesel equipment engines. It complies with federal low sulfur content requirements.
Different route, same destination
The LUC10013 may not have all of the properties of other fuel system cleaners, which have PEA and solvents; but for the most part, it provides similar benefits—cleaning, improving efficiency, reducing wear, and lowering emissions.
And although you can use it as your only fuel system cleaner, some use it in combination with other fuel system cleaners with direct cleaning detergents such as Techron and Red Line SI-1 with high PEA content. Thereby complementing the fuel conditioning and lubricating properties of the LUC10013 with the stability and/or ability to combat hesitation, rough idle, or similar conditions of Techron or Red Line SI-1.
That said, perhaps the biggest draw of the LUC10013 is its huge one gallon bottle with a handy cap that can be resealed. It is perfect for professional mechanics, delivery businesses, companies with a fleet of vehicles, or owners of multiple cars. And for the price, there’s nothing better out there.
The Liqui Moly Jectron 2007 may not have the high PEA content of the Red Line Complete, the reputation of the Chevron Techron and BG 44K, or the versatility of the Lucas 10013 and Royal Purple Max-Clean; but it is the only core fuel injector cleaner to make our list. And that is a testament to its high-end performance and effectiveness.
The competition is brutal and fuel system cleaners in general don’t leave much room for fuel injector cleaners to make in-roads in the market. However, the mainly naphtha-based Jectron still manages to provide much of the same benefits as other higher-ranking FSC.
These benefits include:
Using it is a cinch. Like all other FSCs on this list you add it directly to a near-empty tank and fill it up. Its 1:1.8 titration ratio—a whole can of 10 oz. for up to 18 gallons of fuel—is impressive.
And although the recommended use of once every 1,200 miles takes away from its cost-effectiveness; manufacturers confirm that they were able to get away with using it once every 3000 miles or with every oil change. The Jectron 2007 is only compatible with gasoline engines.
An unassuming performer
Sea Foam is no stranger to the fuel additive market. They’ve been going strong for decades. And while the SF-16 Motor Treatment has a cult following and famous for its versatility, it doesn’t have a reputation for being an excellent fuel system cleaner.
This is frankly a surprise, because the SF-16 is as potent as it gets in ridding your fuel system of nasty deposits that negatively affect efficiency. And while that’s the core reason why it deserves a mention in this guide, this petroleum blend offers a lot more than traditional fuel injector/system cleaners.
Loads of benefits
Unlike the products that made the list, the SF-16 labeling does not primarily allude to being a fuel system/injector cleaner or fuel treatment. In fact, the ability to clean injectors is only one of the attributes on the labeling followed by more than half a dozen other qualities.
It is deliberate, as it is a holistic engine additive. Reason why its “Motor Treatment” product name is apt. Of course, we’d start with its fuel system cleaning ability. Its proprietary formula includes naphtha—a potent cleaning detergent. And it does a nice job of dissolving deposits and fuel residues in injectors, carb jets, intake valves, fuel passageways, etc.
This cleaning certainly help provide the tons of benefits you’d expect from an FSC—better fuel economy; improved power; eliminating hesitation, stalling, hard starts, engine surge; lower emissions; and limiting wear.
Beyond that, the Sea Foam Motor Treatment is also able to:
One major criteria products had to meet while compiling our best fuel system cleaners list was easy application/usage. All recommended fuel treatment additives meet this criterion. They all have a simple usage instruction—add a portion of it (following recommended titration ratio) directly to the fuel tank. And while you drive, the product will do its magic.
The SF-16 also meets this criterion. You can add it directly to the fuel tank. The titration ratio differs depending on the primary benefit you’re hoping to realize.
It is compatible with both oil types—conventional or synthetic.
You can use the Sea Foam SF-16 Motor Treatment in most engine types whether gas, diesel, or ethanol; two- or four-cycle; inboard or outboard; injection or carburetor. You can also use it in non-road engines (motorcycles, trimmers, boats, etc). The SF-16 does not negatively affect gaskets, seals, or o-rings.
A unique proposition that is hard to pass up
For one additive, the Sea Foam Motor Treatment sure has a long list of capabilities. It can effectively clean the fuel system, clean deposits throughout the crankcase, lubricate, stabilize, and even control moisture. It works with most types of engines and fuel types/blends.
Best of all, it is a petroleum-based product. As such, you can use it with any other additive, be it phenol-based, chemical-based with detergents, or a formula with alcohols.
Best Fuel Injector Cleaners Buyer’s Guide
Fuel Injectors, Gasoline/Diesel Grades, and Fuel Injector Cleaners
Carburetors may not have gone the way of the dodo yet, but fuel injectors are unrelenting in replacing them. Put simply, injectors deliver (spray) a fine mist of atomized fuel into the engine. The direction, timing, and quantity of the atomized fuel are highly specific.
Now, with pure fuel, fuel injectors would perform this task without hassle almost indefinitely. However, in general, the fuel you put in your tank is anything but pure. It contains a bunch of additives. Some like detergents are good stuff, but others like ethanol are a mixed bag. For instance, while ethanol boosts octane rating, it exacerbates the buildup of gunk over time.
It doesn’t help that fuel (gasoline and diesel alike) have different grades. Which pretty much implies you have to pay more for high-grade fuel if you want the inevitable buildup to be slow. Regardless of grade, sediments and deposits will eventually accumulate to a point where they impair the function of not just with the fuel injector, but other fuel system components.
This will manifest as several issues—reduced gas mileage, hesitation, smoke (increased emissions), rough idling, stalling, misfiring (or knocking), or reduced power. It may even damage components such as the catalytic converter.
And this is where the best fuel injector cleaners come in. They are special serums with the right cocktail of detergents/ingredients/additives to dissolve these non-combustible substances—carbon, rust, gunk, varnish—limiting the efficiency and performance of your car’s engine.
The benefits are immense. The cleaners resolve the aforementioned issues with remarkable efficacy; reduce wear thus promoting longevity of the engine; and improve power that’d have had a beat down due to clogged fuel lines, dirty injectors, and deposit buildup.
Fuel Injector Cleaners vs. Fuel System Cleaners
Now that you get the idea behind the use of fuel injector cleaners, it is necessary to identify the difference (however subtle) between a fuel injector cleaner (FIC) and a fuel system cleaner (FSC). Both terms are often used interchangeably. And although there is some merit to that, they aren’t always synonyms.
Put simply, compared to a fuel injector cleaner, a fuel system cleaner is a more potent and versatile additive. An FIC has about enough detergents in it to perform its major, and often, only task—cleaning the fuel injector.
However, an FSC would have a higher concentration of detergents to clean more components in the fuel system effectively such as the fuel lines, combustion chambers, carburetors (if present), ports, and intake valves. Furthermore, it may contain extra ingredients for additional capabilities such as improving lubricity, conditioning fuel, reducing the need for octane, and stabilizing fuel in storage.
It is therefore not unusual to infer that fuel system cleaner additives are the best fuel injector cleaners available.
This explains why fuel system cleaners populate our top 7 fuel injector cleaners list disproportionately—the first 5 are FSCs, the 6th (Liqui Moly Jectron) is an FIC, and the 7th is a multi-purpose fuel treatment additive.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Fuel System Cleaner
There isn’t much to fuel injector cleaners. They all come in small cans or bottles, have proprietary formulae of select ingredients, and for the most part do the same thing. The good news is that you do not need to tick through a long laundry list of factors when making a choice.
You only have to consider four metrics:
1. Compatibility (Fuel type)
Due to a combination of reasons, gasoline cars rule the American auto market with an over 95% market share. This explains why most fuel system cleaners are compatible with gasoline. Thus, if you have a gas engine, this is hardly to factor to consider. Not for those in the minority though.
For those with diesel cars, checking compatibility is the first port of call. Diesel car owners typically have to make do with products that are compatible with multiple fuel types, such as the Royal Purple Max-Clean and Sea Foam Motor Treatment.
2. Potency (Performance)
Most fuel injector cleaner additives will provide some level of reprieve to your inefficient fuel system. However, only a select few premium products would do so comprehensively and quickly. This ties in with the specific cleaning ingredient(s) (detergent(s)) included and of course the composition.
Unfortunately, because manufacturers jealously guard their formulation (more like Coca Cola), you sometimes can’t tell the exact composition. It doesn’t mean you’re in the blind though. The fact that they can’t tell you the exact composition doesn’t imply that they can’t share the ingredients.
You’d want to pay attention to this information. The most effective cleaning detergent is Polyetheramine (PEA), and a fuel system cleaner with high PEA concentrations certainly has excellent potency. Unsurprisingly, our top 2 FSCs are the Red Line (60103) Complete SI-1 (with the highest PEA concentration in the industry) and the Chevron 65740 Techron.
Other common ingredients are:
3. Usability (Ease of use)
Although most FSCs allow you to add the additive directly into the fuel tank, others require you to bypass the tank and deliver it directly to the fuel line. The former is more convenient, but the latter is often more effective.
Regardless, the best fuel system cleaners are able to offer top-level effectiveness while also being easy to use.
4. Additional functions (Versatility)
Sure, it cleans the fuel system. What else does it do? Manufacturers often include ingredients that accord additional capabilities to up the value of their products in the fiercely competitive market. You’d want to know what these capabilities are and factor them in your buying decision.
5. Price vs Efficiency (Cost-effectiveness)
This is often a concern for prospective buyers, but it is convoluted and it complicates the buying process. You’d have to get technical and consider three primal metrics: bottle size, usage or titration ratio, and frequency of use.
However, the bottom line is that cost-effectiveness only comes into play when you’ve reliably tested two or more products that give you the results you want.
Q: Is it necessary to use a fuel injector cleaner?
Some word this question differently as “Should you use a fuel injector cleaner,” or more bluntly as “Does it really work?”
The short answer is yes, it works. And if you’re concerned about keeping your car in tip-top condition, then using a fuel system additive isn’t up for debate. That said, some aren’t convinced that the benefits of using injector cleaners are that significant or noticeable. This usually stems from having impractical expectations.
For instance, many users report improved fuel economy with usage. In general, this implies improvements of about 2-3 mpg. It’s not earth-shattering, but the savings add up. Furthermore, the improvements in power and acceleration you’d get from using it in an aged car with 6-figure mileage wouldn’t be the same as when you use it in a newer car with 30,000 or less miles.
In a nutshell, a fuel injector cleaner wouldn’t turn your 2005 Honda Civic into a brand new Koenigsegg Regera. However, it would help your car maintain high-level performance after discounting for inevitable age-related dip.
Q: How often should you use a fuel injector cleaner?
It may be a curious pattern, but users don’t typically open a fuel system cleaner can until they run into issues. Manufacturers seem to have accepted this reality.
However, an injector cleaner isn’t exclusively a knight in shining armor, it can also be an understated antibody providing immunity. As such, you can use it to restore function in an old car as well as use it to maintain the status quo on a car already in good condition.
The recommended frequency of usage from manufacturers is such that it lets the deposit build up for a while and then you use the cleaner just before the build-up becomes a critical. This works. And you should follow the manufacturer’s recommendation religiously. However, it is also possible (and okay) to use the cleaner in a more dilute ratio with every tank fill to limit the build-up.
Q: How should you use a fuel system cleaner properly?
- First, follow the manufacturer’s instructions/recommendations. Several top fuel system cleaners allow for excessive usage without damage to your engine, but what good does that do your wallet.
- With that out of the way, you should preferably pour the cleaner into a near empty tank before filling it up. Manufacturers do not always point this out, prolly because of the limited space on the product packaging.
- You may also need to use a cleaner additive multiple times before getting tangible results, especially with first time usage in a high-mileage car. This is normal.
Q: Can you use a fuel system cleaner with other additives?
Several premium FSCs use solvents and substrates in the right proportions to allow for compatibility with other motor treatment additives. Sea Foam and BG do well to highlight this capability. However, the roster of products that meet the same standards is much longer.
One reason for this is that manufacturers often have an extensive line of treatment additives that perform different functions—think octane boosters, antifreeze, etc. Thus, it would hurt their bottom line if FSCs couldn’t be used with most other additives.
That said, it is in your best interest to confirm compatibility before mixing additives in your fuel tank.
Q: How long can you store a fuel injector cleaner for?
For years. The only caveat is that it must remain properly sealed. Even after part usage (using a specific quantity out of a can and re-capping it afterwards). It is for this reason that manufacturers like Lucas go to great lengths to improve the seal of high-volume bottles/cans designed for repeated use such as the Lucas Fuel Treatment LUC10013.
Furthermore, there is also no evidence that properly sealed and stored FSCs lose their potency substantially over time. Very unlike gasoline that requires a stabilizer if it’d go in storage (after getting into a fuel tank) for more than 30 days.
This has been an extensive guide, so we’ll keep it simple with the conclusion. Fuel system cleaners are not a chore to shop for if you know the few things that matter, and the best fuel injector cleaners are miles ahead of the competition.
The Red Line (60103) Complete SI-1 is everyone’s darling—the high PEA content is hard to ignore. The Chevron 65740 Techron and BG 44K are safe choices with decades of heritage under the belt—you simply can’t go wrong with either. The Lucas Fuel Treatment LUC10013 is ideal for bulk use. And the Sea Foam Motor Treatment SF-16 is unbelievably versatile.
Pick one (any of them), buy and follow recommended instructions to a tee. They wouldn’t just solve problems, they’d also keep problems at bay when used regularly.